Ensuring good aquatic animal production by improving aquaculture systems

Mozambique is one of the countries in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) with the greatest need for initiatives to boost its economy.

The Mozambican government has made an urgent call to the public and private sectors for solutions to critical issues related to health, food security and education.

From this perspective, the work of Dr Valera Dias, a researcher in the School of Marine and Coastal Sciences at the Eduardo Mondlane University, is driven by the need to improve the country’s aquaculture system to ensure good aquatic animal production. While the cultivation of freshwater species in Mozambique has been practised since the 1950s, the cultivation of marine species has only emerged in the past five years.

The production models and intensity of aquaculture comprise both subsistence and commercial farming. Aquaculture practices range from extensive farming (tilapia and seaweed) with few inputs and modest output, to semi-intensive farming (prawns) with high inputs and high outputs. The development of aquaculture in Mozambique will play an important role in the country’s social and economic development. Aquaculture is a cheap source of protein, which assists in improving the population’s diet, creating jobs, generating an income and promoting regional development.

Mozambique has an enormous potential for aquaculture development due to a favourable investment environment, good climatic conditions, the absence of severe pollution, low population pressure and extensive resources, with a potential 33 000 ha of land suitable for coastal aquaculture. Several wild native species can be farmed, including the giant tiger prawn, Indian white prawn, kuruma prawn, giant river prawn and tilapia. Dr Dias, who completed a Masters in Applied Science in the Marine Environment, majoring in Aquaculture at the University of Tasmania in Australia in 2010, is using her knowledge of the marine environment to train lecturers from aquaculture institutions in Mocuba in the Zambezia Province.

She presents a short course on aquaculture at the Eduardo Mondlane University’s School of Marine and Coastal Sciences and teaches on the University’s BSc program in Marine Biology and the MSc in Sustainable Aquaculture. Almost 130 (undergraduate and postgraduate) students benefit each year from her knowledge of this important sector. According to Dr Dias, activities such as mining and aquaculture, which are performed near aquatic systems, can interfere with the ecology. She has an interest in an ecotoxicology project that monitors the effects of anthropogenic activities on the marine environment, which appear to be polluting a river near Quelimane City.

The aim of this project is to reduce the contamination of aquatic systems, since there is a shrimp farm near the target river. “The results of this project will help establish water quality guidelines to monitor toxicants and pollutants released by industry into the ecosystem. As Mozambique’s policy on aquaculture is not finalised at the moment, this research will help the Ministry of Fisheries set fines and penalties to be imposed on transgressors, and encourage the use of the country’s marine resources in a sustainable way,” she explained.

Dr Dias was an architect of the project in collaboration with the government agency responsible for water affairs in Zambezia Province. The project will evaluate and mitigate the pollution in the Chipaca River in the Zambezia Province and, once implemented, a number of postgraduate students will research its impact. A funding application for the project is being submitted to National Funds for Investigation (NFI) in Mozambique. As an Australia Awards Alumna, Dr Dias has expressed an interest in collaborating with Australian universities in her field of specialisation.

In recent years, she has completed a Doctorate at the University of Cape Town in South Africa and looks forward to consolidating her collaboration opportunities in 2017. She plans to collaborate with fellow researchers, including a fellow Alumna from Indonesia, in a project related to the cultivation of shrimp, which is being severely affected by the white sop syndrome virus. “Maybe I can learn more with possible partners from Australia or other places,” she said.

Dr Dias believes that she can make an important contribution to research in Australia and Mozambique, as parts of Australia have similar weather conditions as some provinces in Mozambique.

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